The Quietus review of The Stoning

Here is The Quietus review of “The Stoning” by Angus Batey, which was published on 16 October 2021.

The Stoning, is drier than a Martian canal, hotter than a smelting forge: the investigation into a Biblical execution in a poverty-ravaged outback town finds city-based cop George Manolis battling drunken incompetence, racial hatred, and decades of state-sponsored dysfunction. Papathanasiou writes unsparingly, confidently, and compellingly. His book is desperately bleak but possessed by a savage beauty.

The Stoning nominated for UK CWA Daggers

This month, I was absolutely delighted to receive the news that my debut novel “The Stoning” has been nominated for the prestigious UK Crime Writers’ Association (CWA) Daggers in 2022. It’s been nominated in two categories: the Gold Dagger, which is awarded to the best overall crime novel, and the John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger, which is awarded to the best debut crime novel.

It’s pretty exciting to see my little book, which I first started writing in 2014, being received so positively, and in such fine company too. I’ve got to give big thanks to my incredible publishers MacLehose Press (UK) and Transit Lounge (Australia) for their fantastic support, and also my hard-working agent, Martin Shaw.

The awards nominations are below, along with a media release in Books + Publishing that was published on 27 April 2022.

CWA Gold Dagger 2022: Longlist
CWA John Creasey (New Blood) Dagger 2022: Longlist

Irish Independent review of The Stoning (Part 1)

Here is the Irish Independent review of “The Stoning” by Breda Brown, which was published on 10 October 2021.

The Stoning Peter Papathanasiou MacLehose Press, €19.85

Peter Papathanasiou was born in northern Greece and adopted as a baby by an Australian family. Although he has written in a variety of forms for many years, The Stoning is his debut novel and, perhaps not surprisingly, his family background has provided a rich seam of material for the work.

Set in the small outback town of Cobb in Australia, the book opens with a local schoolteacher found taped to a tree and stoned to death. Molly Abbott was well liked in the community and no one can understand how – or why – this has happened. With the crime demonstrating all the hallmarks of medieval savagery, suspicion starts falling on the refugees housed at the new immigration detention centre recently built on the outskirts of the town.

Detective Sergeant Georgios ‘George’ Manolis, a Greek-Australian, goes reluctantly to his childhood hometown to investigate the crime, and while he remembers Cobb as a thriving bustling town where his Greek parents ran a successful cafe, he’s surprised to find it’s now a poor and derelict hovel destroyed by alcohol and drugs.

Faced with an antagonistic and uncaring local police chief, George has to carefully negotiate his local colleagues and the simmering anger of the community to try to figure out who killed Molly Abbott and, more importantly, why. Meanwhile, the detective also realises he needs to come to terms with some long-buried secrets from his past that he would prefer to forget.

Papathanasiou has succeeded in delivering a vivid and atmospheric novel that explores a wide range of contemporary themes such as culture, race and migration.

The writing is evocative, the characters are superbly drawn and the clever plot is layered and engaging. The scene setting is also superb, with palpable descriptions of a small, hot outback location that is simply drowning in oppression and unsure how to find its way back.

If you like your crime fiction dark, claustrophobic and thought-provoking with a strong sense of place then this book might be for you.

And, due to the success of this debut, the good news is that an Australian outback noir series featuring Detective Sergeant Manolis is now planned.

The Times review of The Stoning

With my debut novel “The Stoning” being published in the UK by MacLehose Press and in Australia by Transit Lounge in October 2021, I’ll be reproducing some of its reviews on my blog. The first is from The Times in the UK by Mark Sanderson and published on 20 September 2021, just ahead of the book’s publication.

The Stoning by Peter Papathanasiou

MacLehose, 320pp; £16.99

The opening scene of this remarkable debut is horrible. A woman is being pushed in a shopping trolley through the dustbowl town of Cobb at night: “A pale-blue mist of eucalyptus obscured the stars above, a new moon cloaking the land in darkness.” She is then gaffer-taped to a tree and stoned to death: “The first stone flew through the air, caved in her forehead and smashed the frontal bone.”

Who would do this to a teacher? The barflies in the pub have no doubt it must be someone from the nearby immigrant detention centre dubbed “the brown house”: “The ’flies laughed, full and hearty, guts quivering, mouths agape, rotten teeth, shrivelled heads.” When Detective Sergeant George Manolis, who is kind to wombats and possums, is sent to help Sergeant Fyfe and his two deputies to find the killer he is welcomed with open hostility: “Well fuck me without a kiss,” Fyfe says. “You must be the city mouse.”

And so it goes, even though it turns out Manolis has a personal connection to the place where the sky is so blue it overloads the brain and the superheated air feels like “dragon’s breath”. Further violence, fuelled by drink and drugs, erupts. As one of the suspects comments: “Isn’t it a sad bloody day when Australians are fighting among Australians to save Australia…?”

It’s hard to believe this is Peter Papathanasiou’s first novel. He makes Chris Hammer and Jane Harper seem like amateurs. Outback noir has a new star.

How my left-handed son revealed forgotten family history

This article was originally published by the ABC on 20 September 2021.

My youngest son just turned two years old.

He’s an energetic little dude, usually running around the house with his two older brothers, chasing and wrestling and playing and mimicking whatever they do.

And part of that fun includes throwing and kicking an assortment of balls we have accumulated over time: soccer, tennis, basketball, rugby, rubber, plastic.

It was during this ball-throwing and kicking that my wife noticed something.

‘See that?’ she said. ‘He’s a southpaw.’

Sure enough, I saw that our toddler was preferentially throwing with his left hand, and kicking with his left foot.

We soon realised he also favoured his left when eating, pointing, waving and blowing kisses.

My wife and I are both right-handed. So are our other two sons, and also our four parents and three siblings. We are like 90 per cent of the population.

Amid this overwhelming family background of ‘righties’, our youngest son’s singular left-handedness struck me. 

It struck me because, it brought back something I only knew because my mother had told me; despite now being right-handed, there was a time when I had preferred the left, too.

Two left handers: Peter’s son (left) in 2021 and Peter in 1976.

I was once left-handed

I was only a toddler myself, it was the mid-1970s. Following an arrangement with her brother in northern Greece, my mum had adopted me to raise as her own child in Australia.

Despite being married to my dad for nearly two decades, they’d been unable to have their own children until her brother and his wife made a proposition.

I was raised as an only child and didn’t learn the truth about my adoption — and my two older brothers in Greece — until 1999 when I was 25 years old.

Returning to Australia in late 1974 with their infant nephew (now son), Mum and Dad thought I was perfect.

That was until 1976 when I started to kick my own footballs and throw my own tennis balls and pick up crayons with my left hand.

Mum was horrified. In the Greek Orthodox Church, and in many other religions and cultures, left-handedness had been seen as a sign of evil, and even a symptom of neurological problems.

Why my left-handedness was hidden, even to me

Historically, left-handedness has been associated with immortality, demonic possession, witchcraftuncleanlinesscriminalityacademic and behavioural challenges, mental illness, and even shortened life span.

The origins of such beliefs are complex and vary between countries, religions, cultures and disciplines. Ultimately, they have no firm scientific reasoning.

But back in the 1970s, the assumption that the left hand was in some way nefarious was strong and meant my mum would whack mine with a solid wooden ruler every time I went to write or draw.

Eventually, Mum told me that I switched and learnt to use my right.

Mum didn’t want me to be ‘evil’, but she also didn’t want me to smudge my handwriting or struggle with scissors.

Today, the only thing I do left handed is play guitar (well, air guitar in my case).

A welcome link to the past

While there is still stigma around left-handedness, happily, being a southpaw is now also praised. International Left-Handers Day celebrates the uniqueness and differences of left-handed individuals.

Some experts see it as a sign of creativity and mental deftness. And on the sporting field, being left handed can have significant competitive advantages.

We named our youngest son after his yiayia, my mum.

Seeing her grandson’s preference for his left, my mum, who is now 90, instantly recalled a long-buried memory. She said that my biological mum (her sister-in-law) in Greece had also been left handed.

She died in 1993 but suddenly, the influence of genetics felt even stronger.

Seeing my son preferentially using his left was like some kind of torchlight cutting through the darkness to reveal a beautiful remnant from the past.

For my son, I will celebrate his left-handedness.

I began by calling my brother in Greece and sharing the news about his youngest nephew.

Georgios got slightly emotional and said: “It’s like Mama has come back to life in some small way through your son.

“His name comes from your mum, but his hands and feet come from mine.”

Peter’s three sons, on a family movie night, holding their ice creams with their dominant hands.